On the “back end/front end” Thing

These distinctions are hard. For the vast majority of clients, if you are writing CSS, you are probably also writing HTML. If you are writing HTML, you are probably querying the DB or a remote API in order to generate that HTML. If you are querying a DB, you might be designing a schema. If you are calling an API, you might be managing the local server cache. Therefore there is no distinction between back/front end developers that clients will ever care about or be able to request accurately.

In my opinion, we’re all “templaters”. As a templater, I need a sys-admin to give me an environment in which to work and a designer to tell me how it should look. I’ll take it from there, everything from generating to styling the content.

Dear Possible New Client…

I found myself spending quite a bit of time today outlining the options for getting online as a blogger/website owner. Some themes emerged from this that I think make for an interesting glance of what it is to “have a blog” on today’s web. Without further ado:

Hey Marcus,

Very nice, thanks for that information. Based on what you’ve told me, you have three options in front of you, and they all vary based on the following qualities:

  • Time required from you.
  • Money required from you.
  • The number of options at your disposal as the owner of this website.
  • The quality of the options at your disposal as the owner of this website.

Option #1: Stay on WordPress.com, but with some upgrades

  • Upgrade to a premium theme (maybe $80, one-time) that comes closest to meeting your goals, and also buy a proper domain name (maybe $20, annually).
  • Grab some of their free plugin functionality, which I see does seem include a twitter feed on your blog.
  • Understand that you are one animal in a very large herd of other animals, so you will have absolutely no recourse if you need custom work. Options are few.
  • Understand that if a solution is available on WordPress.com, it’s going to be extremely secure, performant, well-supported, accessible — only top-shelf stuff makes it onto wp.com. Options are high-quality.
  • You can pay me my hourly rate to help with any of this. Probably would not exceed 8 hours.
  • You would spend very little time on config/maintenance. It would be as ready as it’s ever going to be, really quickly.

Option #2: Leave WordPress.com, buy some internet real estate, host your own copy of WordPress, but rely on community tools.

  • Buy hosting and a domain name (I generally recommend BlueHost), maybe $90 per year.
  • Install a copy of WordPress, which you would download from WordPress.org — as opposed to WordPress.com.
  • Install free themes and plugins from WordPress.org, or paid themes and plugins (maybe $50 per pop) from ThemeForest. ThemeForest actually has a much lower barrier-to-entry when it comes to quality. You are generally better off with WP.org stuff since it gets so much community/peer-review. That said, themes and plugins from WP.org will still have more warts than what you’d find on WP.com.
  • There are something like 40,000 plugins available on WP.org. I happen to be the author of four of them, and also one theme. Given all of those options, you can probably meet most of your desirables from these community tools. Options are many, but options are lower/moderate in quality.
  • You can pay me my hourly rate to help with any of this. Probably would not exceed 21 hours.
  • You will spend some time doing maintenance at some point, although it’s hard to say how much. Maybe you need to click buttons to update a plugin, or maybe your site gets hacked and you have to get BlueHost to rollback to a saved copy.

Option #3: Buy some internet real estate, host your own copy of WordPress, and pay me to make you exactly what you want.

  • Buy hosting & domain, install WordPress (I can help with that), just like option 2.
  • You enter the process of being a client, kind of like if someone was building you a mountain bike to spec, to include welding the tubes together to make the frame, and assembling the spokes into the wheel (I am not a mountain-bike person, so forgive my vocab).
  • Options are moderate/high in both quality and quantity — If I can build it, you can have it, and I have been doing this for a very long time.
  • Everything would be at my hourly rate. Probably about 55 hours.
  • Maintenance burden on you is the same as #2.

Caveat: You spent a lot of time in your last email talking about integrations with third-party services such as Facebook and Twitter. Understand that if a solution works today, but Twitter changes their API tomorrow, your solution may not work tomorrow, and there is no guarantee that someone will repair your solution. That’s just how the internet works.

One thing you didn’t mention was email subscriptions to your blog. You’d want to work that in as well, and there are options for that at each of the three tiers I outlined above. Ditto for analytics — You’ll want a way of knowing more about your audience.

Names changed to protect the innocent, but the rest is based on a true story. I find myself taking on the role of more of a client-educator / WordPress ambassador, rather than just a programmer, which I think is a good thing.

In praise of the “Random Page” Button on the WordPress Codex

You know what I do while I’m watching basketball or walking my dog? I hammer this link: Random Page more… In praise of the “Random Page” Button on the WordPress Codex